Aldo Agostinelli

In my previous post entitled “Online news: the ‘free of charge’ trend is changing” I addressed the paradox of online news which still rely on printed newspaper to survive. A paradox which has to be faced and overcome, considering the  fact that readers, especially the youngest, nowadays seem to be willing to pay for high quality, professional and verified contents. It is about time news got paid. And various proposals have been put forward about how to do it.

Read the article in Italian.

The three most widespread formulas, even in their hybrid versions, are: freemium (most news are free and premium articles, the best and most detailed ones, are reserved only TO subscribers), Hard paywall (unsubscribed visitors can only access the newspaper home page) and Metered (free contents are available in a limited quantity and for a limited time, after that you have to subscribe).

However, although digital advertising cannot pay for newspapers survival and subscriptions are the only tool they have to sustain themselves, it is also obvious that new, diverse and more efficient initiatives are actually needed (News brands and reader subscriptions).

Dynamic paywalls may actually be a feasible option. The idea is based on the same customization techniques applied by  user experience technologies developed by  e-commerce, plus just a little automation. Basically a dynamic Paywall offers a different reading experience depending on how likely a given reader is to subscribe. Whether we are talking about a pure reader, seriously interested in news, or an occasional, more volatile reader, the paywall may be harder or softer, offering, for instance, a 24 hour pass offer.

It is all based on the ability of publishers to target their readers and understand when to offer the right type of subscription for the different devices they may use. Such mechanism requires consistent investments which may, however, pay back.  The most serious obstacle is actually publishers’ reluctance due to their fear of the fact that such “sorting” process once applied to their readers may put them off.  Anyway, it is a fake problem since may people shop online without wondering whether other shoppers may have been given a discount on their first purchase, and also since we have got used to phone services providers offering a better treatment to new subscribers than to long-term users. We are talking about widespread selling techniques and we no longer pay attention to them. You need to find a way to increase customers’ loyalty and push them to pay for a subscription.

Let’s take Mediapart as an example. Established in 2008 by a group of journalists from  Le Monde, it is a newspaper issuing three editions per day and paying 83 employees, 45 of whom are reporters. Its policy since the beginning has been to promote only high profile, paid, advertising free news and services.  And it can boast over 150 thousand subscribers.  Its home page is free of charge but if you want to read the complete articles, you can obtain a 15-day trial period at the cost of 1 Euro. After that you can subscribe at a cost of 11 Euros per month, with no limits in terms of duration of the subscription.   Readers under 25, unemployed people, people with temporary contracts and retired workers, may benefit from special fees starting from  5 Euros per month. Being brave and wise at the same time is a winning recipe.

What do you think about the dynamic Paywall? Is it a good idea? Tweet @agostinellialdo.

To find out more about the digital world, you may read my book entitled: “People Are Media” 

If you liked this post, you may also like “From long tail to TV, YouTube adv strategies”

Aldo Agostinelli